Warren G. Harding photo

Address in Kansas City, Missouri

June 22, 1923

My Countrymen:

Stopping as I am, en route across the continent, to make an official visit of inquiry to the vast territory of Alaska, I stand before you to offer greetings, and bring, if possible, the federal Government a little closer to you and the people of the United States closer to their Government. I confess it has been something of a problem to select subjects for localities, and take cognizance of the territorial interest in the spoken word, and at the same time keep in mind that the printed speech, in the days of modem publicity, is available to all America. I do not mean that there are any circumstances under which the President would say a thing in Kansas City that he could not say in New York, New Orleans, or San Francisco, because our varied national interests are wholly mutual in their last analysis.

Ours is a common country, with a common purpose and common pride and common confidence. I am thinking rather of the enlarged audiences with the marvels of the radio. I was speaking to you last night in St. Louis, precisely as I am speaking to Denver, Chicago, and elsewhere to-night. We have come into very close communication in the United States, and we shall infinitely profit if it brings us into closer and fuller understanding. I know of nothing which will so promote our tranquility and stability at home and peace throughout the world as simple and revealing and appealing understanding.

Production is the very lifeblood of material existence and commerce is its vitalizing force. Put an end to commerce and there will be no cities, and farm life will revert to the mere struggle for subsistence. And there can be no commerce without transportation. In all the exchanges which make for commercial life, transportation is as essential as production.

Not long ago, while discussing the distressing slump in agricultural prices which threatened the very existence of farm industry, a caller drew from his pocket an old Ohio publication, a weekly newspaper of the early forties of the last century, and turned to the quotations on live stock, dairy, and farm products. Wheat was 40 cents the bushel, pork 3 cents the pound, butter 5 cents the pound, .potatoes 8 cents the bushel. Not many automobiles in returns like those. But that was before the age of motor cars, that was in the flatboat era, when a cargo of farm products had to be floated down the Scioto and Ohio Rivers 250 miles to market. The prices were a reflex of the crudity of transportation. And manufactured products were correspondingly high to the consumer, because there was the same crudity of transportation in distribution. The stage coach, the wagon train, and the flatboat were speed wonders of that day, and the canalboat was the last word in luxury on many waters. The great Missouri Valley was then unrevealed, and only awakening transportation was the revealing agency. In the infinite bounty of the Creator the measureless riches of the West were bestowed, but they availed little until the whistle of the steam locomotive proclaimed its westward march with the Star of Empire.

It is a curious trait of human nature that we acclaimed railroads in the building and then turned to hamper them in the operation. Missouri and Kansas were doubtless like Ohio. We gave from our purses to contribute to needed building funds, we donated vast areas for right of way, we witnessed financial exploitation with little protest, because of our eagerness to acquire, and acclaimed the acquisition. Marvelous development attended, but we omitted the precautions which would have avoided many present-day difficulties.

Everybody knows how necessary transportation is in this modem world of specialized industries and extensive exchanges. Everybody knows that our very social scheme, as now organized, is dependent on the maintenance of adequate transportation media. A good many people, indeed, have latterly come to wonder if it might not be possible even that we have committed our welfare and prosperity too largely to the assumption that it would always be possible to provide all the transportation that the community might desire, at costs which would not be prohibitive. That we have even staked our very existence on the daily continuity of transportation. There is a new, and I think increasing, school of thought on this subject. Its adherents are beginning to ask whether, in the long run, it would not be better to attempt making local communities more nearly self-dependent, by diversifying their range of production, and thus reducing the amount of transportation and exchange of products over long distances. But such a course would be a reversion to the old order, which no modem community willingly would accept, back to the farm self-contained, back to the restricted community, with its candle burning beneath the half-bushel measure.

Of one thing we may be reasonably assured, and that is that since railroads first began to be built in the world there never was a time when so many people, in so many communities, were frankly and intelligently questioning the future as regards its instrumentalities of transport. They are asking very frankly and pointedly how they can attain railroads enough in the next few generations to supply them, along with other agencies, with the transportation they will require. I doubt if there is a country in the world in which railroads have come to be a considerable transportation factor which has not some sort of a railroad crisis on its hands right now. There are some countries which merely need more railroads, and are willing to pay almost any price to get them, just as we would have done a generation or two generations ago. There are others which have more railroads than current traffic and insistent demand for lower rates make profitable, so that they have been made in some fashion or other, a burden on either industry or the public treasury. There are still others which have excellent railroad systems but have found, in the increased cost of capital and operation which came with the World War upheaval, that the cost of transportation is threatening to become too heavy for the producing industries to bear it.

Our own country, although it possesses something like forty per cent of the world's railroad mileage, is confronted with all these difficulties. In much of our territory we need more railroad facilities, and somehow will have to supply them in the near future. It is stated on high authority that the indirect losses in industry and commerce due to insufficient transportation run into figures equal to the burdens of federal taxation. On the other hand there are some railroads in this country the building of which would better have been deferred, for they were born out of misguided enthusiasm, or unjustifiable speculation, or the mere purpose of levying a sort of transportation blackmail upon systems already in the field. Finally, we have many railroads which, though apparently well managed and absolutely necessary to the communities they serve, are finding it difficult to earn a living and quite impossible to provide the necessary maintenance and the means of expanded facilities.

Every passing year adds to the cost of producing new railroads. Most of our railroads were begun in a time when land was the most plentiful and least valuable thing we possessed, and their rights of way and terminals cost, as compared with the present expense that would be involved in reproducing them, very little indeed. Everybody is doubtless familiar with the story that a few years ago a great engineer was commissioned to make preliminary calculations of the cost of a complete new trunk line system between New York and Chicago. He is said to have reported that the purchase of real estate for terminals on Manhattan Island alone would require as much capital as would the physical construction of the entire line from New York to Chicago.

There could hardly be a better illustration of the increasing difficulties which the country must face in any considerable expansion of its railroad system. Of course, this hypothetical new trunk line from Lake Michigan to the Atlantic coast was not constructed. If it had been, it could not have earned returns on its enormous cost unless rates had been greatly increased for its benefit. But if rates had been increased for it, they would have had to be increased also for the lines competing with it. Otherwise, the new road would have no business at all. An increase of tariffs which would have permitted such an expensive new property to earn even a moderate return on its investment would have enabled the older and less expensive properties to earn absolutely preposterous returns.

It is worth while to bear in mind, in the face of current agitation, that we could not replace our railroads for a vastly larger sum than the valuation placed upon them by the Interstate Commerce Commission, and it is fortunate for our people that we do not have to contemplate a rate structure founded upon replacement cost.

I have referred to the previously recited instance because it so perfectly illustrates the whole situation which the country must meet in dealing with its railroad problem. Events of the last few years have made us all realize that the railroads must be administered under some policy that will make it possible to find the capital wherewith to expand the existing systems as business shall require, without imposing an impossible burden upon industry and consumption.

It is no theoretical problem. It is not an imaginary thing to be swept aside with the wave of the hand. When the Government undertook operation during the war, and standardized wages, and was caught in the sweeping current of mounting cost, it created a situation to ignore which would quickly develop a national menace. At an awful cost we learned the extravagance and mounting burden of Government operation. Yet there are to-day very insistent advocates of Government ownership. Frankly, I do not share their views. Our political system has not reached a state of development when we can insure proper administration.

I believe it would be a colossal blunder which would destroy initiative, infect us with political corruption, create regional jealousies, and impose incalculable cost on the public treasury. But we must find a solution of the rate problems and the necessary expansion of facilities and find that solution in spite of the prejudices of the present-day sponsors for operations and the present-day destroyers who would bankrupt or confiscate, else Government ownership and operation will become an accepted necessity. Nor do I share the views of those who would lower rates without regard to railroad good fortune. The prosperity of the railways is the prosperity of the American people, and the property rights in railway investment are entitled to every consideration under our Constitution which is due to property rights anywhere. Any tendency toward confiscation will lead to confusion and chaos, and destroy the very foundation on which the republic is builded.

It is easy to understand how many people contemplate the abolition of competitive carrying charges, and the elaborate machinery of Government regulation, and argue that the logical step is to put them all in one common pool under Government ownership. That would effect an adjustment between the fat and the lean, if it didn't make them all lean. It would equalize profits and losses between favored lines and the less fortunate ones, it would abolish profits and saddle all the losses on the public treasury. More, it would completely disarrange the economic relationship between our different communities, upon which our present- day commerce is builded. It is preferable to preserve initiative and enterprise, to maintain the inspiring competition of service, and it is vital that the cost of transportation be borne by the commerce which is served.

No, my countrymen, I am not proposing nationalisation, nor a renewed experiment in Government operation, the cost of which we have not yet settled. The federal treasury can not well bear any added burdens until we have lifted many of those already imposed. I had rather solve a difficulty than embrace a danger.

I do believe there is a rational, justifiable step, full of promise toward solution. It will effect a diminution in rates without making a net return impossible. It will make sound finance possible for expansion. I refer to the program of consolidating all the railroads into a smaller number of systems, the whole to be under rigorous Government supervision, and die larger systems to be so constituted that the weaker and unprofitable lines would be able to lean upon the financial strength of the stronger and profitable ones until the growth of the country makes them all earn a just return upon capital invested. The transportation act of 1920, known as the Cummins-Esch law, contemplated this kind of a consolidation, but made it permissive rather than mandatory. In effect, it left to the railroad managements, subject to the master plan set up by the interstate Commerce Commission, to arrange the system groupings of the roads.

That provision was adopted only after long and detailed consideration by men of wisdom and experience, and seemed to represent the best judgment of leaders in both political parties. Its weakness was that it was doubtful whether the railroads would be able, of their own volition, to reconcile all the conflicting interests involved in so enormous a reorganization. It was frankly recognized when the legislation passed that it was necessarily somewhat experimental. Likewise, it was extremely uncertain whether the wisdom of a dozen Solomons, sitting as railroad presidents and chairmen of boards, and as financial backers of these great properties, would be equal to the task of organizing a group of systems which would represent fair treatment of all the interests involved, including those of the public.

There now appears to be no difficulty about any constitutional inhibition to the voluntary consolidation as authorized by Congress. But the problem of reconciling the interests of the hundreds of different ownerships and managements of lines to be merged into systems has proven a task for which no solution has been found.

It is, therefore, being seriously proposed that the next step be to further amplify the provisions for consolidation so as to stimulate the consummation. It is my expectation that legislation to this end will be brought before Congress at the next session. Through its adoption we should take the longest step which is now feasible on the way to a solution of our difficult problems of railroad transportation.

There has been undue alarm in many communities, Kansas City included, concerning the effect of such consolidations upon commercial centers like yours. Let me allay the alarm by reminding you that the whole question is one of adjustment, and the whole program is to be constructive, looking to enhanced service, and destruction is as much to be avoided as failure is to be prevented.

Though no other nation in the world offers a parallel in railway development, those of us who believe that this program of regional consolidation would produce highly beneficial effects find our belief sustained by recent experience in Great Britain. The railroads of that country have in the last few years passed through an experience which, considering the vast differences between the two countries as to area, geographic configuration, industrial and social organization, has more or less paralleled that of American railroads. The United States and Great Britain were, when the World War flamed, the only two great countries which had clung unalterably to private ownership of railroads.

In every other important country a considerable portion or all of the railroad mileage was owned or operated by the government. In Britain, as here, the necessities of war persuaded the Government to take over the roads, place their operation under more rigorous control than before, and extend financial guaranties. In both countries, the results were expensive from the viewpoint of the treasury, and highly unsatisfactory from that of the public's convenience and the accommodation of business. In both countries, again, the experience went far to dispel whatever illusions had been entertained about the desirability of government railroad management.

The parallel does not end here. When the war ended opinion in both countries urged return of the railroads to corporate management as soon as possible. In both this was effected, and—here comes the most striking coincidence of all—in both the return was accompanied by a legislative provision looking to consolidation of the many systems into a small group of great ones. The difference was that in Great Britain the legislation was mandatory, requiring that by January 1, 1923, the roads should be consolidated into four great systems; here it was permissive, and, of course, a much larger number of systems is proposed. The British program has been carried into effect; there are now four systems in the country, all organized around the same general idea of increasing efficiency and providing their financial stability.

While this reorganization has been in effect only a few months, its early results are reported to justify fully the expectation of better conditions under it. It is regarded as a long step toward permanent settlement, on a basis fair to the owners of the properties, and to the public interest in good service at the lowest possible rates.

The necessity for early adoption of this or some other program to place the railroads on a sound basis is so pressing as to make it a matter of deep national concern. There is no other issue of greater importance, for herein lies in large part the solution of the agricultural problem, and with it the assurance of our industrial position. Nothing else can possibly prosper with agriculture depressed; and agriculture is calling loudly for relief from present transportation burdens.

Quite recently Senator Cummins, the veteran chairman of the Senate Interstate Commerce Committee, made the startling statement that probably 75,000 miles of our railroads are earning so little and costing so much to operate that with scant incomes they can not be adequately maintained and expanded in facility to meet traffic requirements. If we realize that this means near one-third of the country's railroad mileage, we will appreciate the gravity of the situation. Yet there it is, grimly staring us in the face, challenging our statesmanship and business capacity.

Not long ago the Interstate Commerce Commission actually granted the necessary authorization to tear up and abandon one piece of over two hundred and thirty miles of railroad. It was no frontier line, in an undeveloped, uninhabited section; it was in the rich and populous state of Illinois. If the spectacle of a railroad literally starved to death in such a community is alarming, it is yet less a calamity in some ways than it would be in a region possessing fewer lines capable of taking over the public service. A majority of the people tributary to it will, by going a few miles farther, get transportation from other roads. But there is no such solution of the problem for many extensive communities now served by roads in financial distress.

There are some roads—many of the smaller ones in fact—whose continued operation is absolutely vital to many thousands of people, to considerable towns, to large areas of country, whose revenues simply can not provide financial facilities through earning, pending a considerable growth in community population, say nothing of earning any return whatever on capital invested. No legerdemain of court processes, receivers' certificates, or financial juggling, can save them. They must get more revenue or stronger support or quit operating until the country is more largely developed. We shall contribute nothing to solving their problem by agreeing that they ought not to have been built so soon. Nor shall we help by talking about the wickedness of men who, years ago, exploited the public, watered stocks, and did other reprehensible things. No panacea will be found in statistics proving that some other roads are earning more than they need, unless we find an equitable way to coordinate the activities of the strong roads to develop the weak ones. .

The railways have become publicly sponsored institutions, and government must find a way to avoid confiscation, avoid starvation, and maintain service and a proper return upon capital which will assure them a growth commensurate with the country's development.

We are all agreed that to abandon any important share of railroad mileage is inconceivable. We can not do it because people already dependent on the railroads would be ruined; and because, further, in a not very distant future we should be compelled by the country's development to put them back, or their equivalent in capacity for service. They must be saved. There are just three possible ways to do it:

1. For the Government to take and operate the weak roads, and thus bear all the loss without any of the profits of railroad management.

2. For the Government to take all the railroads, convert them into one gigantic pool, and plunge into the enormous responsibility thus incurred. In the present state of the public treasury and of tax burdens, and in the light of recent sad experience with Government management, this is not to be considered. I believe it would be politically, socially, and economically disastrous.

3. The plan of consolidations already outlined, bringing economies in operation, financial stability, ability to secure needed capital, adjusting rates and regulations to the necessities of the position, and preserving the real advantages of competition in service, while avoiding the evils of Government ownership.

As among these possibilities there can be little doubt of the public preference for the third program. It is not unjust to the strong roads, for the prosperity of these, like the prosperity of all industry, depends on keeping the country as a whole prosperous. Every mile of railroad trackage in the land helps to make business for every other mile. The transportation system must be considered as a unity, precisely as the nation itself must be considered. In this manner we will best help to insure the credit of the railroads, assist them to new capital for future expansion, and insure, for the future, against the sort of wildcat and competitive railroad construction which in the past has been responsible for giving us a great share of the trackage which now proves economically unjustified.

There is another particular reason which urges the early adoption of the larger-system plan. It would be a long step toward solving the problem of keeping the railroad equipment adequate. Many financially weak roads are unable to provide all the rolling stock they need. Inadequacy of car service hindered the relief of the coal situation last winter, it denied the farmer a market when prices were most advantageous, and has impeded manufacturing industry time and again. It is fair to say the railways were helpless because they were financially and otherwise unable to keep up with the demands for service. Prevailing practices further embarrassed the situation. Roads inadequately equipped make up their deficiency by borrowing the cars of other roads. When a foreign car comes to one of these parasite lines it is not returned promptly, but often is deliberately retained. The free movement of cars is prevented; no company can be certain of commanding even its own equipment when it is needed; seasonal congestions or shortages of cars follow; and an unfair burden is imposed on those roads which sincerely try to meet the demands of this demoralized situation.

To meet this condition, the proposal of a nation-wide car pool has lately attracted much attention. The Pullman Company fairly illustrates what is meant. This great corporation provides most of the railroads with certain kinds of cars, on a rental basis. Applying the same idea to the provisions of freight cars, you have a rough notion of the proposed car pool. It is urged by advocates that it would unify the rolling-stock organization; make possible the enlistment of adequate capital to pro-vide for the weak and strong roads alike; place the entire organization under a single centralized control which would insure equity to all roads and sections. There are others who insist it would not correct the present evils, and would divide responsibility and make regulation and supervision more difficult. In any event the system of consolidation would in effect clear up many difficulties in car distribution.

We come now to an entirely different phase of this transportation question. Quite regardless of its cost, the continuity, the assurance of service at all times is absolutely necessary in transportation. Business that is done to-day depends on the certainty that the goods tan be delivered to-morrow. If there is doubt about the trains running and the deliveries being made to-morrow, there will be unwillingness to buy and sell today. All of which brings us to consideration of the relations between the transportation organization and its employees.

There is no other business, so far as I know, in which suspension of operations can produce such disastrous results as in transportation. The vital importance of this service has brought many people to the conclusion that it ought to be possible absolutely to forbid and prevent railroad employees from striking. I do not believe it possible under our form of government to compel men to work against their will, and do not think it desirable under any form of government. I say this, fully recollecting my vote in the Senate in favor of the antistrike provision of the railroad act of 1920. That was not a provision denying men the right to strike. It was merely a requirement that before the men should strike or the employer should lock them out, both sides should submit their differences to a properly constituted and impartial tribunal, empowered to consider the facts, determine the merits, and make an award.

It was believed that in the vast majority of cases this procedure would prevent lockouts and strikes; and, in view of the enormous loss to the carriers, to their employees, and to the public resulting from strikes, I profoundly regret that it should not have been possible to give the plan a fair trial. When I say a fair trial, I mean a trial under conditions fully and frankly acceptable to all interests. I do not believe that in such a situation a fair trial is possible unless both sides have absolute confidence in the fairness of the tribunal and are sincerely willing to accept its verdict. If human wisdom shall ever be capable of setting up such a tribunal as that, and of inspiring both sides of the controversy with complete confidence in it, we will have traveled a long way toward industrial peace.

Personally, I have confidence that the thing is possible. I believe so firmly in the underlying common sense of both organized industry and organized labor, and in the fairness toward both on the part of the great public on which both of them are finally dependent, that I believe at last it will be possible to arrive at settlement of industrial disputes in public services by such a method. Let me say so plainly that there will be no misunderstanding, that in most disputes which end in strikes or lock outs I do not believe the difference which at last divides the two sides very often represents any underlying question of human rights and human justice.

There was an interesting illustration in the strike last year of the railway shopmen. The Government sought to effect a settlement that had for its firm foundation the pledged acceptance by both managers and employees of the decisions of the Railway Labor Board. To such a settlement the spokesmen of managers and employees gave their pledge, but the managers rejected the agreement on the ground that it did not do justice to the new employees who were taken on after the strike began. Much was made of the issue, but in the end all settlements were effected on precisely the terms the Government proposed. Yet the agreement to abide by the Labor Board decision was lost in the days of anxiety and the separate settlements which were effected.

It is inescapable that the Government feels the importance of public interest and right in connection with the settlement of such questions. t The vital existence of the Nation now depends upon continuity of transportation. In recent years it has come to be accepted that there are three parties, rather than two, to every controversy between the employer and employee of a public-service corporation. The employer is one, the employee is another, and the great public, which must have the right to consume and to be served, is the third. If we are quite frank among ourselves we will have to admit that in dealing with such controversies the third party in interest has, down to this time, decidedly received the least consideration. Yet the public is the party on which finally must be placed the burden of whatever adjustment is effected.

As a means of making possible righteous adjustment between railroads and their employees, with due regard for the interest of the public which pays, the Government established a Railroad Labor Board. It was assumed that this organization, required to represent in equal numbers the employers, the employees, and the public, would command the confidence of all sides and that its determinations would be accepted. Unfortunately, for reasons which are the subject of no little controversy, the board has never had the cooperation of employer and employee for which its authors hoped. For myself, I am not convinced that the test has been a complete or entirely fair one, and I favor, not its abandonment, but its continuance under such modifications as seem most likely to make the plan successful. But there is little to hope for until all concerned are ready to comply promptly with the board's decisions. I am frank to say I do not hope for compliance on the part of employees so long as decisions are ignored by the managers.

There is another highly important phase of the transportation problem very much worth our attention. I believe the use of our inland waterways offers the one sure way to reduced carrying charges on basic materials, heavy cargoes, and farm products. Probably all of us acknowledge the urgent need of diminished cost on agricultural shipments and many bulk cargoes essential to manufacturing industry. While it is well established by the Boston Milk Case decision that public necessity justifies carrying a commodity at less than cost, the service at less than cost on the larger tonnage of the country does not offer the righteous solution. We ought to try the experiment of coordinating rail and water shipments, we ought to avail ourselves of the waterways developed through expenditures of enormous public funds, and we ought to give the waterway carriers a chance to prove their capacity for helpful service.

The Federal Government has expended approximately $1,130,610,000 on river and harbor improvement. Only last spring the Congress appropriated $56,589,910, in spite of a budget recommendation of less than half. For the stuns spent on harbors we have most beneficial results. The millions expended on inland waterways, on rivers and canals, have brought small returns because we have put them to no practical use. Though we expended to cheapen carrying charges and to facilitate transportation, we have failed in coordinating service and have allowed the railroads to discourage every worth-while development. Where barge and packet service has been established there has been such an unfair division of the joint carrying charge that waterway development has been impeded, and where service lines by water have been established the hoped-for diminution of rates has been denied or avoided until the plea of cheapened transportation by water has seemed a mockery.

I believe we should encourage our water service, we should encourage and enforce coordinated service, we should see to an equitable division of rates, and exact rate reductions whenever practicable to operate successfully under rate reductions.

It is a very discouraging picture to contemplate the expenditure of $50,000,000 of public funds on an inland waterway when the tonnage on that waterway has diminished more than half, while the waterway itself is made better and better year by year. We have either wasted many hundred of millions in blind folly or have been inexcusably remiss in turning our expenditures to practical account.

I wish the railway leadership of the country could see the need of this employment of our water routes as an essential factor in perfected transportation, and join in aiding the feasible plan of coordinating service and cheapening charges, not alone as a means of popularized and efficient public service, but as a means of ending the peril of their own fortunes.

No thoughtful sentiment in America will tolerate the financial ruin of the railroads. But the people do wish, now that exploitation has been ended, to have their transportation adequate to the country's needs, and desire all our facilities brought into efficient service. They wish to make sure of the ample agencies, and they demand the least carrying charge which will make an adequate return to capital and at the same time permit extensions and additions and enhanced equipment essential to the best transportation in the world.

We have not fully appraised the evolution from the ox-cart to motor age. The automobile and motor-truck have made greater inroads on railway revenues than the electric lines with their intimate appeal to the local community. There will never be a backward step in motor transportation. But we shall do better if we find a plan to coordinate this service with the railways, rather than encourage destructive competition. Indeed, the motor transport already promises relief to our congested terminals through better coordination. We have come to the point where we need all the statecraft in business, to find the way of making transportation in its varied forms adequate to the requirements of American commerce, to afford that transportation its due reward for service, without taking from production and trade a hindering exaction.

I can not too greatly stress the importance of this great problem. It can not be solved by those who commend the policy of confiscation or destruction, nor can it be solved by those who make a prejudiced appeal for political favor. We must frankly recognize the exactions imposed upon the American farmer during the war expansion of rates, take note of the wage development which will yield no reduction in the principal item of operating cost, and seek conditions under which we may have the requisite reductions in fixed charges which will afford encouraging relief. If the system consolidations, with diminished overhead costs, with terminal advantages largely improved and terminal charges greatly reduced, will not afford the solution, then our failure will enforce a costlier experiment and the one great commitment which I hope the United States will forever escape.

We are dwelling now amid a gratifying return to prosperous conditions. I do not share the feeling that the recovery is a mere temporary one, with impending relapse. The guaranty of permanence lies in our doing the things essential to the equitable sharing of our good fortune. There can be no abiding prosperity in industrial centers, in transportation or elsewhere, unless it is properly shared by American agriculture. Government can make no direct bestowal of good fortune, but it is the duty of government to maintain conditions under which equal opportunity for good fortune is the heritage of every American everywhere.

Under our representative democracy we find ourselves absorbed in issues which more or less concern us in our individual affairs, but we lose the aspect of government as a whole and take it as a matter of course. It is our accepted practice rather than a deliberate intent.

Americans ought ever be asking themselves about their concept of the ideal republic. I take it to be one of universal good fortune, where freedom is as complete, under the law, as justice is unfailing within the law. A land where the equality of freedom's opportunity and the reward of merit are held as sacred inheritances and citizens are made fit to embrace beckoning opportunity.

Above all else, since we are the great exemplars of representative democracy, ours should be a land of unquestioned loyalty to the great fundamentals on which we are builded, to which Americans are committed by birth, or declare allegiance when they are adopted. We have achieved most notably in development; let us make sure of the preservation and hold ourselves equipped for the continued triumphs of progress at home and unafraid to play a great people's becoming part in the affairs of the world.

Warren G. Harding, Address in Kansas City, Missouri Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/329285

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